Mothers For Peace demands halt to nuclear power plant re-licensing. New information from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) showing that even a small nuclear reactor pool fire could render 9,400 square miles uninhabitable and displace 4.1 million Americans on a long-term basis are among the factors causing 34 environment organizations to file a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to hold off on additional reactor licensing.
In addition to the NRC's new data on risks, the groups also pointed out that the Commission has concluded spent reactor fuel could be transferred out of high-density storage fuels (where the fire risk is the greatest) in a cost-effective manner.
The groups pointed to the findings of an unpublicized NRC study of spent fuel storage at Peach Bottom, a reactor in Pennsylvania. This investigation showed that if even a small fraction of the inventory of a Peach Bottom reactor pool were released to the environment in a severe spent fuel pool accident, an average area of 9,400 square miles (24,300 square kilometers) would be rendered uninhabitable for decades, displacing as many as 4.1 million people.
As the groups point out in their petition, the NRC has never before acknowledged such dire pool fire risks in its reactor licensing decisions. The information undermines the NRC's conclusion in prior environmental studies for reactor licensing and re-licensing that the impacts of spent fuel storage during reactor operation are insignificant. In the Peach Bottom study, the NRC also revealed for the first time that the costs of transferring spent fuel out of risky high-density storage pools could be economically feasible, given the enormous damage that a pool fire could cause.
Additionally, the NRC concluded for the first time that the likelihood of spent fuel pool fires could be affected by reactor accidents, and committed to study the problem. The groups are requesting that the NRC conduct a new environmental impact study that incorporates the new and significant information generated as part of the post-Fukushima investigation into the risks of severe accidents in the reactor pools where spent fuel is stored. They contend that, in the meantime, the NRC should suspend all reactor licensing and re-licensing decisions.